Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In another wake-up call for policy makers, the Governance Institute of Australia has found that nine out of 10 Australians want to see federal government action on climate change.

More than 60 per cent of people surveyed for its 2019 Ethics Index also believe state governments, international bodies and multinational corporations have an urgent ethical obligation to take action on climate change, and at least half of respondents also believe individuals, local councils and Australian businesses need to act.

In addition, 90 per cent of people believe Australia has an ethical obligation to transition to renewable energy.

“We’ve been struck by the clear and compelling message from this year’s index for business leaders and the government: that more Australians now regard climate change as an urgent ethical obligation,” GIA chief executive Megan Motto said.

The index found our federal politicians are regarded as the most unethical professionals in Australia, followed closely by state politicians and real estate agents.

The banking and finance sector is the worst performer in terms of their perceived ethics, followed by media, large corporations and government.

“The banking and finance sector continues to suffer from credibility issues following the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. One in two people now rate the sector either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ unethical,” Ms Motto said.

“High executive salaries are seen as the most ethically important issue for the banking and finance sector with 74 per cent of Australians saying it’s unethical to offer a CEO salary of more than $3 million per annum.”

In the ranking of public service sectors, science appears to be highly regarded, with CSIRO rated as the most ethical public sector organisation. The three tiers of government took out the bottom three places on the league table.

Corruption was rated by 62 per cent as the top ethical issue in business, followed by company tax avoidance at 51 per cent.

The key enablers of ethics were identified as accountability (61 per cent), transparency (57 per cent), whistle-blower protection (50 per cent), and highly ethical leaders (49 per cent).

Having a senior executive with “ethics” in their title such as a “chief ethics officer” was rated as least helpful in ensuring ethical behaviour.

Tellingly, less than one in five Australians expect “total improvement” in ethical behaviour by boards and executives across various institutions to actually occur.

Read the full report here

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